Movies, Gift Cards, and Operating Systems Are Being Stored on Synthetic DNA

Scientists claim new DNA-encoding method is the most efficient way to house data, ever

March 7, 2017
Photo: iStock

If you thought USB drives shaped like gorillas were neat, then this data storage development should really blow your mind: Scientists are housing data on specks of synthetic DNA now and they’re claiming it’s the most efficient method of information storage ever invented.

The newly developed DNA-based encoding system has already been used to store everything from computer operating systems to Amazon gift cards to 120-year-old French films. The algorithm, called DNA Fountain, can reportedly store up to 215 petabytes of data on a single gram of DNA. That’s enough space to house 27 million high-definition copies of “Private Parts,” for example.

In addition to storing data efficiently, DNA-based encoding systems also outperform other forms of media in terms of longevity. “DNA won’t degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won’t become obsolete – if it does, we have bigger problems,” Columbia University computer scientist Yaniv Erlich said.

Check out a recently-published Science magazine article and the full report at Columbia University’s Data Science Institute and for more on the story.

Also watch the stored-then-retrieved-from-DNA-molecules short French film, “Arrival of a train at La Ciotat” (below).

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